“Cannabinoids can enhance the antinociceptive effects of opioids in a synergistic manner, potentially reducing the analgesic dosage of opioids and improving pain therapy. This strategy has also been used as a rationale to combine certain antidepressants and opioids.
In this experiment, opioid-induced thermal antinociception was assessed in rhesus macaques using a warm-water tail-withdrawal procedure with 3 water temperatures (40, 50, and 55 °C). In general, the acute antinociceptive effects of intramuscular (i.m.) cumulative doses of heroin were studied alone or in combination with i.m. (-)-trans-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabinol (CBN), or the tricyclic antidepressant amitriptyline.
A nonantinociceptive dose of THC (1 mg/kg) shifted the ED50 for the heroin dose-effect curve 3.6-fold leftward at 50 °C and 1.9-fold leftward at 55 °C compared with heroin alone. When the cannabinoid type-1 receptor (CB1R) antagonist, rimonabant, was administered prior to the most effective THC-heroin combination, rimonabant blocked the THC enhancement of heroin antinociception. When CBN (1-3.2 mg/kg) was administered prior to heroin, or 1 mg/kg of CBN was administered prior to a combination of 0.32 mg/kg of THC and heroin, no shifts were evident in the heroin dose-effect curves at either temperature.
However, similar to THC, amitriptyline (0.32-1 mg/kg) administered prior to heroin significantly shifted the heroin dose-effect curve leftward. Heroin produced both dose- and temperature-dependent thermal antinociception in nonhuman primates and THC produced opioid-enhancing effects in a CB1R-dependent manner. These effects of THC were not shared by cannabinol, but were quantitatively similar to that of amitriptyline.”